Congressional Budget Office recommends eliminating the FTA in 2020

By Skylar Griego

On December 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report that recommends eliminating the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in 2020 in efforts to reduce the federal deficit.

“The FTA provides financial and technical support to roughly 6,800 local public transit systems across the country, through about two dozen formula grant and competitive grant programs,” according to the report. “Its funds support capital investments, and in some cases operating expenses, for subways, buses, light-rail and commuter rail systems, trolleys, and ferries.”

According to the report, the CBO estimates that implementing a plan to phase out the FTA would reduce spending by $87 billion over 10 years, though there are no links or references included to support this estimation.

The report’s authors make the argument that “the benefits of public transit systems are primarily local or regional and should be financed at the local or state level.”

The authors do note an argument against getting rid of the FTA at the end of the report:

“An argument against eliminating the FTA is that public transit has benefits that extend beyond the area directly served. Without continued federal funding, transit services would be cut back and systems would deteriorate, leading to increased road use, with its attendant problems of traffic congestion, accidents, and emissions of local air pollutants and greenhouse gases. In turn, greater congestion could increase demand for road construction and development in outlying areas. Dispersion of economic activity to such areas, where greater distances and lower population density make the provision of transit services more costly, could reduce access to jobs by people who do not own cars,” they wrote.

APTA criticizes the report

On December 14 in response to the CBO report, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) put out a press release with the headline, “CBO Report Missed the Economic Value of Public Transportation.”

In the release, APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas said APTA is strongly opposed to this proposal.

“Eliminating federal funding for public transportation will drastically reduce mobility and job opportunities for Americans and will make our country less competitive,” Skoutelas said in the press release.

The release included a claim from APTA that every $1 invested in public transportation generates $4 in economic returns, though the release’s authors did not include any links or references to support this statistic.

“The CBO proposals will negatively impact the American people, the communities they live in and the companies they work at,” Skoutelas said in the release. “This is a time when we should be significantly increasing investment in our public transit infrastructure.”